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with Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

Holding A Grudge: 5 Tips For Letting Go

Sometimes, the reasons we hold a grudge are not always clear; to the person we hold the grudge against or even ourselves. Often we hold onto our grudges unwillingly, while wishing we could drop them and live freshly and happily in the present.

Many of us want to release and let go of the heavy, negative baggage we call grudges, however, this is not easy to do. Holding a grudge can consume a lot of our physical, emotional, and psychological energy, leaving us feeling tired and drained. When people feel they’ve been seriously wronged they don’t always know what to do with those hurt feelings.

One of the most common responses is a form of reaction formation where they repress the discomfiting sense of being vulnerable and alternatively present a strong, even aggressive facade to the world. Not surprisingly, those who perceive themselves as being “wronged” by someone else may struggle with the irresistible urge to get even, to punish the wrongdoer.

The question remains, why do we hold onto grudges when they clearly do not benefit us? Why do we maintain an uncomfortable, distressing, or painful memory when it is clearly causing us stress? Why do we turn the knife in a wound, preventing it from closing or healing? How can we get beyond the pain of the past so we can move forward toward a future of endless possibilities?

Unfortunately, one of the most important things we need to remember about grudges consist of the lack of purpose, hence, they do not resolve anything, simply exacerbating current negative feelings.

Grudges do not make us feel better, empowered, or triumphant; rather they lead to feelings of being wronged, a victim, taken advantage of, weak, etc. By holding onto a grudge and all the negative feelings associated with it we do not allow ourselves the opportunity to achieve closure, accept, or make peace with the past.

We turn our grudge into a weapon, wielding it against anything and anyone we feel has wronged us. Holding a weapon we have now given the distinct name of “grudge” serves as a source of proof (at least to us) that we have been wronged.

Grudges, like people, are individual and unique. Surprisingly, grudges have their own identity; they are based on some perceived ill of the past. Grudges also reinforce who we are, adding to our identity, solidifying our role amongst others that also view themselves as having been “wronged”.

For some people, letting go of a grudge is like letting go of a part of our identity, the part of our identity that places us in a box labeled “wronged” or “victim.” We have to forgo the notion of gaining revenge by living in the here and now rather than living in the past. Moving forward with forgiveness and a light heart is the only way to free you from the weight, control, and negative feelings associated with a grudge. To let go of a grudge we need to move the focus off of the one who “wronged” us, off of the story of our suffering, and onto the felt experience of what we actually lived.

By gaining control of our pain and negative emotions we get to limit or prevent our attention from wandering onto negative images and thoughts. We gain more control over ourselves as well as our emotions, making them easier to control. In addition, we take responsibility for caring about our own suffering, and for knowing that our suffering matters, which can never be achieved through a grudge, no matter how fiercely we believe in it.

Reasons Why We Hold Grudges Include:

  • You feel you have been wronged
  • Failure to achieve closure
  • Fear of losing part of our identity
  • You hold a grudge with the expectation the other person will realize how much they have hurt you
  • You are seeking revenge, e.g., you want the person who has wronged you to feel what you are feeling
  • Inability to let go of anger

Tips for Letting Go of a Grudge Include:

  • Acknowledge what has happened
  • Accept what has happened
  • Do not ruminate on what has happened
  • Release and let go of negative feelings
  • Forgive the person who has wronged you, not for their sake but for yours.

The path to healing is not an eye-for-an-eye, or a tooth-for-a-tooth, but choosing and embracing compassion and forgiveness.

Holding A Grudge: 5 Tips For Letting Go

Bates-Duford, Ph.D., LMFT

My name is Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford PhD, LMFT, CRS, CMFSW, BCPC I have a PhD in forensic Psychology specializing in familial dysfunctions and traumatic experience. I work with individuals and families struggling with familial dysfunctions, trauma, rape, and incest. I also have a masters in Marriage, Couples, & Family therapy. I am a certified relationship specialist with American Psychotherapy Association (#15221). I have more than 15 years in the field of mental health, relationships, and behavioral sciences.

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APA Reference
Bates-Duford, T. (2017). Holding A Grudge: 5 Tips For Letting Go. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Jun 2017
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